Aug 24 2021
57 people from a Seattle homeless camp were granted hotel rooms last year. More than a third have probably returned to the streets.
The idea was to do something different. To an 8e Encamped on South Avenue and South King Street in a parking lot under an overpass on Interstate 5, four organizations joined together last year under the banner of a coalition called “JustCare” to show that hotel shelters can be used to remove homeless settlements and get the people who lived there into stable housing.
Fifty-seven people entered and the encampment dissolved. But 10 months later, 20 people left the program and it is not known where they are. JustCare could not immediately provide data on 16 other people who were part of the original settlement.
City and county politicians who got money for the effort say these numbers are in line with what they would expect from a program with uncertain funding and inconsistent access to housing resources over the course of the last year. But the data also raises questions about what will happen to the more than 200 residents of the camp that JustCare took off the streets during the pandemic: whether the program will prove to be a meaningful intervention in their lives or yet another shelter program. that gets people through the system without landing them in permanent housing.
JustCare, originally a collaboration between the nonprofit programs Public Defender Association, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Chief Seattle Club and REACH, has emerged as an innovative way to combat the growing encampments of people who had been left to survive outdoors as the shelter system struggled and reorganized during the pandemic.
Since 2020, the city and county have together allocated more than $ 43 million to JustCare as good as The Public Defender Association’s Co-LEAD program and LEAD diversion program come from a combination of local and federal funds. The program has been touted by officials in Seattle and King County as an alternative to the mayor’s current approach to camp removal and outreach.
In the aftermath of the politically charged decision of the city council’s decision to cut funding for the navigation team, the controversial group of police and city workers who removed the encampments and made referrals to shelters, JustCare executives called their method a compassionate and effective way of dealing with encampments, with care tailored to Seattle’s cultural demographics and individual hotel rooms.
A University of Washington report on the program released last June praised the effort, citing a relatively low failure exit rate of 13% based on numbers reported earlier in the year.
And the first results are striking. With before and after photos of the King Street encampment, JustCare showed that an encampment causing frustration among neighbors can quietly disappear without the usual trauma, chaos, and displacement that can accompany city camp cuts.
But almost a year later, it’s also clear that a significant number of people who have stepped off the streets are likely homeless again. Of the 36 camp residents who participated in the Co-LEAD portion of the JustCare program, 20 had unsuccessful outings – meaning they left voluntarily, were evicted after uttering threats or breaking rules, or did not engage with social workers.
Five people were accommodated permanently via Co-LEAD.
JustCare said it could not provide immediate data on all of the 17 program participants who visited hotel rooms managed by the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, but said a person from that cohort was housed permanently. Four other people visited hotel rooms run by the Chief Seattle Club, which left the partnership due to lack of funding. The four were moved to another accommodation program run by the nonprofit at the King’s Inn, where they remain today.
It is not known what outcomes those remaining inside JustCare hotels will face. One of the residents of the King Street encampment who entered through Co-LEAD said she was told she would have to leave the South Lake Union Civic Hotel at the end of her nine-month stay.
“When we first got here, they said we would be inside indefinitely until they found us in permanent accommodation, that we would not go back to the streets”, Megan Besgrove, 30 years, noted. “Then when six months comes, (they said) it’s a six to nine month program and if you don’t do anything to improve yourself, we have to kick you out. ”
Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association, the organization that runs the LEAD and Co-LEAD programs and manages the JustCare partnership, disputes the idea that program participants were told they could stay indefinitely.
“The JustCARE field team would never promise indefinite hotel stays,” Daugaard said via email. “Back then and today, we did not have access to hotels indefinitely, and these are not meant to be permanent accommodation.”
Program participants also sign an accommodation agreement that states that the hotel stay is temporary, Daugaard said.
But the Besgrove case highlights in some ways the issues JustCare shares with other hosting programs.
She completed a housing assessment in March and her case manager told her she should try another housing program, which Besgrove has not explored. She also missed nine appointments with case managers over the summer. Giving Besgrove a date to leave, Daugaard said, was a tool to get him to work with them.
Daugaard added, “If our program is stable (i.e. we don’t close ourselves), we won’t leave participants on the streets if they make an effort to collaborate on a transition plan. , but sometimes a release date is needed. tool to achieve this commitment.
Of the 20 people in Besgrove encampment who obtained hotel rooms through Co-LEAD but left without permanent accommodation, three posed security concerns or were responsible for illegal activities, four chronically raped the ‘hosting agreement, six left voluntarily, five had one of these issues and would not work with case managers, and two would not work with case management, Daugaard said.
The overall figures for Co-LEAD’s hotel accommodation and retention program are better than those of the King Street camp example: of the 183 people that Co-LEAD has placed in hotels, 34, or nearly 19 %, were permanently housed. Yet 84, or nearly 46%, left the program unsuccessfully.
The low rate of movement of people to permanent housing may be more indicative of difficulties within the shelter model and a lack of housing than with JustCare.
Hosting five of the 36 that Co-LEAD has welcomed from the King Street encampment “could actually be a high profile success for those most in need,” said Derrick Belgarde, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club.
At the King’s Inn, a city-funded program run by the Chief Seattle Club that also welcomes people directly from outside, Belgarde said there was a fair amount of turnover – often people leave and don’t are not coming back, and there are people who pose real security risks.
In the Belgarde program, 111 people passed through the hotel, but only two, or less than 2%, left for permanent accommodation. Twenty-six people, or 23%, have left King’s Inn because they chose to, due to safety concerns or issues with the rules. At the Executive Hotel Pacific, another city-funded hotel refuge run by the non-profit Low Income Housing Institute, 209 people participated in the program, 11% were housed and 16% left for safety reasons. , transferred to other shelters or abandoned their place.
Co-LEAD’s permanent housing rate is higher than that of these two programs, as is its 46% exit rate to the street or to unknown places.
Belgarde said he could see Daugaard’s point about using a release date to get someone to work on goals, but added that “the release should be the last approach for any organization.”
Seattle City Council member Andrew Lewis, a champion of the JustCare and Co-LEAD approach, defended the measures provided by Daugaard. At the time JustCare was working with residents of the King Street encampment, the program did not have access to rental vouchers or even a stable source of funding, Lewis said.
This month, Lewis said, that has changed. The city is now committed to connecting JustCare participants with vouchers that would subsidize rent for up to 12 months, Lewis said, and the program also recently got a year. $ 15 million city and county contract focused on shelter and outreach in downtown Seattle. Uncertainty about the funding and the future of the program, he said, has caused some people to leave the program.
“The bottom line is that JustCARE has done a great job providing immediate street-to-shelter resources at a time when no other program is providing this service,” Lewis said.
King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles, another supporter of the program, said she was prepared to wait longer to see the success of the program, given that it focuses on people facing overlapping barriers to entering and staying in a dwelling, such as mental health problems. health or substance use disorders.
“At first glance, these early numbers are disappointing but not surprising,” Kohl-Welles said in an emailed statement. “It will be understood that engaging people with these lived experiences will require continuous and concerted efforts. ”
Despite the program’s mixed results, the city recently brought in JustCare to work with residents of the controversial City Hall Park encampment outside King County Superior Court.
But Besgrove, whose deadline to leave the hotel was recently extended to September, believes the schedule has left her worse than before as she no longer has a tent.
“They basically postponed our homelessness,” she said.
Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the organizer of JustCare, the collaboration between organizations working to move people inside the camps. The organization that manages the partnership is the Association of Public Defenders.